There are many tales regarding the origin of wine. The Greeks, the Romans, Egyptians, even the Persians – strictly for medicinal purposes of course – had a part to play in the long history of wine and wine making. In this post, we will dig into some of that history.
We do not know the exact details of where and how wine making began but we do have evidence of vessels and tools that likely were meant for wine making that date back to the 6th millennium B.C. also from Georgia and Armenia and in Persia from the 4th millennium B.C. I like to ponder how man first discovered fermented grapes… It is rather likely that nomadic peoples would pick up wild grapes that had fallen off the vine and sat a while on the ground. These grapes likely had wild, natural yeasts already on them which then triggered fermenting. After a few spiked grapes you can imagine the euphoria of a feeling not fully understood. But I digress…
Even during the Persian occupation wine making flourished. They seem to tolerate the drink even though it is, and was, forbidden. The Persians were known to produce wine and there has been much debate over the origin of Syrah, also know as Shiraz which is also an area of Iran! Many speculate that Syrah/Shiraz was brought to France by the Persians, who by that time, had conquered much of the know world – but you’d never get a Frenchman to agree to that!
Modern wine making and vineyard practises were first used by the Egyptians around 2500 B.C. – the Pharaohs turned it into a science developing pressing methods that remained for thousands of years. Actually they created an entire economic “renaissance”, a system of measurement, even the way we count time is credited to the wine trade from Pharaonic Egypt laying the foundation of our modern economy. Am I digressing again? Lets move on… Inevitably it would be Greece that would enlighten Europe, they had naturally low yielding varietals resulting in higher quality wines. Which is how we discovered the link between low yields and better fruit. In fact, around the 4th century B.C. a Greek philosopher discovered the correlation between varietal, soil, climate, and better wines. So important to the Greeks was wine that they claimed it to be from a divinity – Dionysis, the Greek god of wine created the plant to free man from his day to day worries (and yes, Dionysis is the first God of wine, Bacchus is the name the Romans gave after their conquest of Greece).
Plato once said that the legal age for drinking alcohol should be 18 and that one should drink moderately until age 40 and then as much as he likes to combat the crankiness of old age. Apparently Hypocrites had not yet discovered that excess alcohol can lead to cancer, liver or kidney disease, diabetes and others but then not many people lived long enough to worry about these illnesses. Digressing…
And although it was the Greeks that introduced modern wine making and viticulture to their new colonies in Southern Italy (the Greeks called it “Oinotria”) and France, it was the Romans that spread the vines all throughout Europe, developing a branch of managed trade. Its kind of funny to think that back then, wine was exported to Bordeaux from Pompeii, Italy – before the volcano thing. At that point in time France was not yet deemed to be such a important wine growing region… perhaps not unlike where some of the New World wine regions are today.
Alas, it is an ancient drink and likely a big part of our modern evolution